My Home: Sophie Conran
Sophie Conran has turned a series of Bayswater bedsits into the nerve centre of her gourmet pie-making business. Joey Canessa reports
Wednesday 27 July 2005
I moved in here almost 20 years ago, on my 21st birthday. I had spent the previous eight months fixing it up, as it had been divided into bed-sits when I bought it. Many of the rooms were partitioned, so I restored them to their original proportions, replaced all the cornicing, fireplaces and floors, and put in the bathroom and the kitchen. It was a massive job, but I enjoyed it, especially the time that I spent looking for bits and bobs at Lassco [The London Architectural Salvage and Supply Company].
Bayswater, in my opinion, is the best place to live in London. It's perfectly located for shopping, eating and the West End, and the Heathrow Express is just round the corner at Paddington, for a quick getaway.
I thought up my pie business about two years ago. Coming from a very "foodie" family, I've always loved cooking, and I knew I could do it well. I spend a lot of time in the kitchen, and I knew exactly what I wanted when I designed mine. I chose wide-grained, unpainted pine cupboards with slate tops, which tie in with the general colour scheme in here - yellow walls and black paintwork. I have a beautiful black gas-fired Aga, which I rub and polish so frequently throughout the day that I could count it as one of my hobbies. The tiles are Victorian slipware, which were originally floor tiles, in beautiful greys and browns. The wooden cornicing is very old, and I found it, with the ceramic double sink and drainer, at Lassco.
I also have a lovely old pink sofa in here, which is extremely battered and worn and so comfortable that it seems to hug you when you sit in it. I have made vague attempts to get it re-covered, but the idea has always been met with huge resistance - we all love it too much as it is. This is where I sit at the end of the day with a restorative glass of wine, which I drink from the most perfect glass in the world - it's fragile, ethereal, beautifully delicate and one of my favourite possessions.
I have recently opened up the wall between the kitchen and the sitting room. Spending so much time in the kitchen meant that the sitting room was under-used. Since we opened it up, the energy has completely changed. The difference in the light, with windows at either end now, has hugely improved both rooms and brought them to life. It's amazing. I spend my time in both now, since the office has been incorporated into the sitting room.
Previously, the curtains in here were blue velvet with orange linings, and they were very voluptuous, but I passed them on to a friend and I'm replacing them with white linen, lined in yellow, to make the room glow in the mornings.
Most of my pictures have been given to me by generous friends and family; Dad gave me the Dick Smith and the Paolozzi; the Howard Hodgkin was a wedding present from my mum; and the Calder print I found in a skip. Another favourite present is the Arco lamp, suspended from a rectangular marble base. It was made by Castiglioni in the Sixties and it takes me back to my childhood home, where we had an identical lamp that hung over the sofa. I bought the black veneered B&B Italia dining table in the sales. It had some minor damage, which I rectified by colouring it in with a felt pen. The red plywood chairs are copies of Arne Jacobsen's Series 7.
My bedroom is a haven, with white walls, a soft, creamy carpet and a beautiful four-poster bed - from the Conran Shop, naturally - with white linen curtains around it. I bought the huge French fireplace from O F Wilson on Fulham Road. It was a bit of an extravagance, but I fell in love with its simplicity and sheer size, and knew it was right for this room. I had the bath restored fairly recently. It's a 1930s model which came from The Savoy, with beautiful Deco detailing, but the enamel was almost worn away. I used a company called Magic Man, which did a fantastic job, filling it with epoxy resin to a perfectly smooth finish before re-enamelling.
A while ago, I had the loft converted. It was a bit of a shock, though, when the builders informed me on a Friday that I would have to move out of the house by Tuesday for work to begin. Desperately, we packed up the house, got the furniture into storage and moved into my mother's one-bedroom basement flat for five months. Before packing up, I threw away a third of everything we had, and when it came out of storage, I threw away another third, so that was a result.
Coco [Conran's daughter] chose the fabrics for her room from a range designed by my best friend, Emma Ashley, who designs for Elanbach. She has a sweet Nordic-style bed and a little chandelier. Felix [her son] has his room in the loft, with a nook for his PlayStation and telly, and a huge drawer under the bed which is full of Lego.
At the moment I'm working towards a festival called Truly British to be held at Harrods, which is a celebration of British quirkiness and eccentricity, presenting examples of contemporary interpretations of our traditional produce.
This flat is my ideal home and I'm perfectly content. If I could, though, I would transport it to a place with a big garden as that's the only thing lacking. One day, I'll progress to something bigger and better than a window-box or two."
'Truly British' runs from 5 September for three months at Harrods, London SW1. 020-7724 5318; www.sophieconran.com
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